There was traffic chaos during Friday’s opening practice session for the Australian Grand Prix as the teams lost GPS and were unable to track their drivers, or their closing speeds.
That led to an “ah f**k” from Charles Leclerc as he had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with Pierre Gasly while Zhou Guanyu almost crashed into Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at the same time.
As the drivers swapped their medium or hard tyres for softs just after the halfway point of the hour-long session, it became rather busy around the Albert Park track.
But busy soon became near misses with seven drivers all in the space of about 100m of tarmac at one point, even going three abreast.
Zhou was left fuming at Perez and Stroll, complaining to Aston Martin: “Man, this guy! What are they doing at the last corner? I nearly crashed into them.”
Stroll simply said: “Traffic jam!”
Leclerc came across Alpine driver Gasly, “Ah f**k… I wasn’t sure if Pierre was on a fast lap or not.”
His race engineer Xavi Marcos Padros replied: “Sorry I can‘t help you because of the GPS (not working).”
Race Control decided to throw the red flag as “there is a GPS issue currently and the red flag is necessary for safety reasons with teams not being able to monitor car position and closing speed.”
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Sky Sports pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz explained that it was the only safe option as not only were the teams unsure of where their cars were on the track, but they also couldn’t tell what the closing speeds were.
“I don’t think the global positioning satellite positioning system, which of course is run and operated by the US military, has gone down,” he said.
“I think it’s the processing element between all those GPS signals that come into Formula 1 and get distributed amongst the teams. I think that element of it has gone down.
“Certainly that’s what the teams believe is the issue rather than the US military has actually turned off the whole global GPS system worldwide which they can do that if they want, of course, although they tend not to do it because well, that would be chaos wouldn’t it.”
He added: “So a systems issue I think, an interface issue. The red flag is necessary for safety reasons, with teams not being able to monitor car position and closing speed.”